Libmonster ID: BY-1599
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

by Olga BAZANOVA, Science in Russia observer

In 2014 the Peterhof State Architectural Museum Complex founded in 1918 on the basis of the country seat of Emperor Nicholas II (today within St. Petersburg) prepared a large-scale mobile exhibition devoted to the centenary of the beginning of World War I of 1914-1918. The first display of the exhibition took place in Arkhangelsk which was the main Russian port for relations with the West European countries. Then it will move to Pskov and Petrozavodsk.

Arcades in Arkhangelsk.

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Let us point out that the exhibition "World War I. Pe-terhof. The Tragedy Prelude" sponsored through the agency of the Russian Federation Ministry of Culture is placed in the halls of the Arcades (department of the Arkhangelsk Regional Museum of Local Lore, History and Economy), a unique monument of the national stone architecture of the second half of the 17th century. At that time, in the reign of Alexei Mikhailovich, Arkhangelsk, situated not far from the confluence of the Northern Dvina River into the White Sea, received the lion's share of cargo coming by water from abroad to the country. The tsar believed that such major port needed an appropriate complex of buildings (for wholesale trade, storage of goods, accommodation of visiting merchants, etc.).

The place for a grandiose construction, at that time the largest of its kind in Russia, was chosen by the foreigners Peter Marsalis and Vilim Scharf invited for the project elaboration on the Pur-Navolok Cape on the Northern Dvina bank, where a wharf had been constructed from time immemorial and where Arkhangelsk had originated (it is where the first Slavonic settlements appeared in the 12th century)*. By the way, in 1984 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the city, a memorable sign of an unusual form was fixed up resembling a sea wave with a high crest for someone, and a bow of the Novgorodian boat moored to the unknown bank for others.

In 1668-1683 on the said cape, well known to foreign merchants, there were gradually springing up large German and Russian arcades and also a "town" (a fortress

* The town was built in a tight schedule in 1584 on the Pur-Navolok Cape around the Mikhail the Archangel Monastery on the order of the tsar Ivan the Terrible in view of a threatening attack on the part of Sweden.-Ed.

where the townsfolk and guests could hide from enemy attacks), i.e. a stone complex of buildings had two functions, trade and defense. Visitors coming here by river faced an imposing main facade of a stately architectural ensemble with watchtowers which stretched for more than half a kilometer. A wide arched gallery ran along its inside perimeter from where one could get to any room.

The strong citadel caused admiration of the tsar Peter the Great who visited Arkhangelsk in 1693, 1694 and 1702; he grew fond of that town, the then Russian "exit to the world", and took an active interest in the affairs of local merchants. But soon he transferred the trade with foreign partners to St. Petersburg*, a new capital of Russia. Soon after the importance of the local port began decreasing gradually, the arcades were decaying and subjected to alteration and dismantling. Eventually by the

See: Zh. Alferov, E. Tropp, "St. Petersburg-Russia's Window on Science", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003.-Ed.

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middle of the 19th century there remained the only fragment which faced the river and, which, according to the old residents, once included "the chamber of Peter the Great". This remaining building presents only 10 percent of the former great complex but even today it impresses with its size and also allows to imagine the range of both the lost giant construction and business life once in full swing there.

The mobile exhibition "World War 1. Peterhof. The Tragedy Prelude" (about 300 exhibits) located in the above-mentioned building opens with the section "Official Imperial Summer Residence". The imperial family used to move to that "Garden of Eden" and "capital of fountains" for summer from the 18th century, which was explained not so much by natural beauties and fresh sea air as by holding army and navy maneuvers there requiring the tsar's presence. And the quiet suburb became the country capital for a while.

The Grand Palace is undoubtedly the main building of the Peterhof architectural ensemble. It was built in 1745-1755 according to the design of Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli and early in the 20th century served for official receptions, granting of prizes and official meetings of foreign state heads. The splendid draughtsman and painter, man of letters and a representative of Russian Art Nouveau style Alexander Benua depicted the magnificent front building and a beautiful system of fountains and water cascades. The exposition includes his several watercolors of 1900 which are kept in the museum section devoted to the Benua family (the former Building of the Maid of Honor built in 1854 by the architect Nicholas Benua), which gave birth to many gifted architects, painters, sculptors, actors and musicians.

The watercolor of 1860 by Eduard Gau represents the blue office of Emperor Alexander II in the Farmer's Palace (1831, architect Adam Menelas, later reconstructed by Andrei Shtakenshneider). At the end of the 19th century-early 20th century working meetings and conferences, reception of delegations, presentation of military and civil officials, and meetings of the State Council, the Council of Ministers, committees and commissions were held in this building.

The so-called Lower Summer Cottage was the most favorite place of Nicholas II and his family. It was built of red and yellow brick in 1885 on the Gulf of Finland coast specially for him, then yet grand duke (architect Antony Tomishko, not preserved), and looked like an Italian villa. After his enthronement in 1894 the young tsar decided to enlarge it essentially and renew the interior. The exhibition section devoted to the imperial family life in

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this palace presents a lot of photos of its interiors of 1918 (children's room, the empress study, the room of grand princess Tatiana, a pink drawing-room, etc.) and of the 1920s (dining-room, the study of Nicholas II, etc.), photos of the crowned couple with their children, cesarevitch Alexei and his sisters.

Close by there is a watercolor of 1897 by Tomishko "General view of the Lower Summer Cottage overlooking the gulf, as well as items of furniture and chinaware from the imperial chamber (by the way, part of it was brought from Copenhagen by Maria Fyodorovna, mother of Nicholas II, Danish princess). There is also a tricycle (supposedly from Germany, 1988) from the museum "Imperial Bicycles", also a section of the Peterhof treasure-house, the collection of which includes 12 such rarities.

In May of 1895 Nicholas II brought his young spouse Alexandra Fyodorovna to Peterhof, where three out of their four daughters were born: Tatiana in 1897, Maria in 1899 and Anastasia in 1901; in 1904 the long-awaited successor to the throne Alexei was also born there and there the family learned about his incurable disease-hemophilia. Besides, the summer residence was a place where far-reaching decisions for the whole of Europe were taken, including those with the participation of the heads of foreign states. For example, the 1891-1893 secret agreements of the leaders of Russia and France, which became the basis for the Entente, a political-military alliance established early in the 20th century with a view to exclude German hegemony.

The visits of the French squadron to the naval port of Kronshtadt and the Russian squadron to Toulon were a demonstration of the agreements reached in the 1890s. In both cases the participants were given a hearty welcome with outdoor parties, where different souvenirs were sold. Their specimens are displayed at the exposition-panels, kerchiefs and plates with pictures of sailors and representatives of other arms of the service, national flags, etc.

The red carpet welcome was given in Peterhof to President of the French Republic Felix Faure in 1897 and then to his successor Emile Loubet in 1902. Exhibited also are the French playing cards with Nicholas II and Faure as kings, squadron commanders as jacks and views of Versailles, Paris, Peterhof, etc, as sevens and eights. Next there are photos, memorable brass badges minted in honor of the visit of high Paris guests, programs of formal dinners and performances held both for them and also for the visiting crowned persons from Siam (now Thailand), Serbia, Romania and Persia (Iran).

The display includes full-dress portraits of the Emperor and the Empress bearing all their regalia, diplomatic presents and chinaware for formal parties including a dinner service from the Alexandria yacht, where the emperor entertained foreign kings and presidents, and also clothes

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of the early 20th century and malachite articles which decorated the Oriental Building of the Grand Palace where the important guests usually stayed.

The last official visit of a foreign state head took place one week before the start of World War I on July 7-10 (20-23), 1914, when Nicholas II received in his summer residence the French President Raymond Poincare who arrived by sea. The Russian photographers, including the "king of reporting" Karl Bulla, took pictures of them aboard the imperial yacht Alexandria at the Peterhof pier near the Grand Palace where they were greeted by troops of the 94th infantry Yenisei regiment headed by the grand duke Nikolai Nikolayevich (junior)*.

Meanwhile, the political situation in Europe was hy-percharged at that time. As early as on June 15 (28) the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot the successor to the Austrian throne Franz Ferdinand and his spouse. On the day of Poincare departure from Peterhof on July 10 (23), Austro-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia calling for investigation of this assassination and purging of the state machine and army, and other claims. The document was drawn up in harsh tones reckoning that it would not be accepted. Besides, the time for reply was only 48 hours, and when Poincare returned to France, it had already expired.

Here is how the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sa-zonov described the developments of those days: "The moment of presenting the ultimatum was adjusted by the Austrian government to the departure of the French

See: S. Bazanov, "Glorious Epic Hero", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2013-Ed.

Republic President from Russia... In this way the count Berchtold* intended to prevent the Russian and French governments using the presence of the French President and Foreign Minister in Russia to work out immediately a general plan of actions of the allied governments in view of the emerging situation due to the Austrian ultimatum. Before exploding the Austrian bomb it was decided to let President Poincare and Mr. Viviani** leave Russia. The return trip to France required four days by sea even without any stops on their way."

The next section of the exposition is entitled "The Romanovs and World War I"***. Neither whizz of bullets nor explosion of shells was heard in Peterhof but "a diplomatic front" was unfolding there when Nicholas II carried on telegraph correspondence with the German Emperor Wilhelm II, which became the last attempt to stop the imminent catastrophe. On July 18(31), 1914, the tsar signed a decree on nationwide mobilization but on the next day he learnt that Germany declared war on Russia and on July 21 (August 3) he left his summer residence for good.

The royal family took the war as an affair which concerned it closely, regarding itself not only as masters but also as defenders of the country. From the beginning of operations the grand dukes joined the army in the field. Nikolai Nikolayevich was appointed Supreme Commander-in-Chief (in 1915 Nicholas II himself occupied

* Leopold von Berchtold was Foreign Minister of Austro-Hungary in 1912-1915.-Ed.

** Rene Viviani was Chairman of the Council of Ministers and Foreign Minister of France in 1914.-Ed.

*** See: S. Bazanov, "Russia in Flames", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2014.-Ed.

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this post), and his brother Pyotr Nikolayevich served in his headquarters. Nikolai Mikhailovich joined the headquarters of the South-Western Front, Boris Vladimi-rovich became the army chieftain of the Cossack troops, while Alexander Mikhailovich was an organizer and leader of national aviation.

The young generation of the Romanov family represented by sons of the grand duke Konstantin Konstanti-novich (President of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences and a well-known poet who published his poetry under the pen name of K.R.), Gavriil, Konstantin, Igor, Ioann and Oleg served as officers in Guards regiments. The latter was seriously wounded in action in Eastern Prussia* and died in hospital. The female part of the family, i.e. the spouse, mother, daughters, sisters and nieces of Nicholas II, took care of the wounded: they set up hospitals, supervised medical trains and acted as nurses.

The war fates of the royal family members are illustrated at the exhibition by national awards and badges of charity organizations instituted during World War I, a badge of the graduate of Peterhof School of Ensigns, a booklet of the Committee of Grand Princess Tatiana Nikolayevna with her photos, photos of 1915 of the royal family members in full-dress uniforms, etc. Here are also unique chinaware items (with the monogram of Nicholas II), weapons, clothes, cheap brass gift ash-trays and cigar cases by Faberge company, which the tsar used to award soldiers and officers with.

The exposition ends with the section "Abdication of Nicholas II and Collapse of the Monarchy". On February 23 (March 8), 1917, the tsar in his personal train came to Mogilyov (today Belarus) to the Supreme

See: A. Makarychev, "From Konigsberg to Kaliningrad", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2014.-Ed.

Commander-in-Chief Headquarters but five days later on learning about the disorders in Petrograd he decided to return there. Meanwhile, the city was already under control of the mutinous workers and soldiers, this was the beginning of the February Revolution. Therefore, avoiding meeting the troops who got out of obedience, Nicholas II went to Pskov where the Northern Front Headquarters were located.

In the midday on March 2 (15) he received telegraph messages from the high military commanders of the country who advised him unanimously to abdicate. At 3 p.m. after his talk with the commander of the Northern Front armies the infantry general Nikolai Ruzsky and leaders of his headquarters, the tsar informed them about his consent to sign an appropriate document. On the same day the State Duma representatives Alexander Guchkov and Vasily Shulgin came to Pskov, and after a meeting with them Nicholas II declared that he was going to abdicate in favor of his younger brother Mikhail Alexandrovich. But the latter consented only on condition of approval of such decision by the Constituent Assembly, which found its reflection in a manifesto.

The similar written statements were made also by other members of the Romanov family. These judicial acts put an end to the monarchy in the country. On March 16 (22) the last Russian tsar was arrested and sent to his family in the Tsarskoye Selo and then in August all of them were sent to Tobolsk and later to Yekaterinburg by an ordinary train. As to the imperial train it was used by ministers of the Provisional Government in the same year and later by the Soviet People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs Leo Trotsky.

The unique imperial train included a salon with a dining-room, a bedroom, a children's room, a workshop, a

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grand duke's room, retinue, private, luggage and servant cars (later on a mobile church and a garage were added). But when World War I broke out it was decided to leave only three cars. In 1929 two of them were sent to Peterhof to serve as exhibits. But during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 they were damaged and taken to pieces later. Thus, today the museum has only several memorial articles from there. It should be noted that the most valuable articles such as a sabre, a bronze writing set of Nicholas II and a silver set of his spouse and also several icons had been evacuated to Novosibirsk in 1941 and then brought back three years later.

These decoration articles of the imperial train as an evidence of epoch-making events, a number of photos of its interiors such as a saloon, bedrooms, the Empress Study, etc., drawings of train fronts and layouts of several cars complete the exposition. This unique train was constructed in 1894, in the year of crowning of Nicholas II. At that time nobody could foresee that he would enter the train as "the sovereign of the whole of Russia" and leave it in 1917 as "the citizen Romanov" and be shot together with his family a year later.


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Olga BAZANOVA, FROM PRESENTIMENT OF WAR TO DOWNFALL OF THE DYNASTY // Minsk: Belarusian Electronic Library (BIBLIOTEKA.BY). Updated: 24.11.2021. URL: (date of access: 22.05.2024).

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